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Target credit-card delinquencies on the rise

My wife and I had a mildly annoying Target experience the other day. We scouted for the shortest check-out line, piled our stuff on the conveyor belt, and then got stuck waiting several minutes after the woman ahead of us decided to apply for a Target credit card. Any other line would have been faster.

These days, the Target credit card looks to be holding up the company’s earnings as well. An analyst said Monday that data for November show more and more Target credit card holders are not paying their bills, the Associated Press reports.

Target’s net charge-off rate — the percentage of credit card billings it doesn’t expect to collect — rose to 11 percent in November from 10.2 percent in October, according to the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

The analyst, John Zolidis of Buckingham Research Group, said he considers Target a “well-run, high-quality company” but that Wall Street’s 2009 expectations may be overly optimistic.

The Star Tribune’s Chris Serres notes that Target credit-card delinquencies have surged more thatn 60 percent during the past year. Delinquencies accounted for $752.7 million in November, up from $469.9 million in November 2007.

The trend could force Target to tighten its credit terms, Serres reports. And fewer people qualifying for Target cards could lead to fewer dollars spent at the store at a time when consumers are already cutting back.

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